Never has a father gone so deeply into paternity leave as Gordon Brown. The Chancellor who ripped apart the convention of pre-Budget purdah, then more recently grabbed every opportunity to display the wide-ranging qualities and opinions that befit a Prime Minister in waiting has remained strenuously silent through the Middle Eastern conflict and slow-motion peace-making that prompted Tony Blair to postpone his Caribbean break.

He had nothing to say about the first interest-rate increase for a year. Even the spectacle of John Reid taking charge of the terrorist crisis, and with it the country, which John Prescott was supposed to be running, has not drawn a syllable.

Tony Blair is pictured topless on a boat wearing flower-pattern shorts. Yet no long lens has penetrated the prized privacy of Father Brown to reveal to the astonished world that even he can change a nappy.

Do not be fooled. There is a pattern of Mr Brown going quiet in August. He may be thinking deep thoughts, or nursing his great grudge against Mr Blair and plotting yet another attempt to resolve it.

He has been watching Dr Reid's activities, for sure. He could be forgiven for wondering whether the Home Secretary may have seriously over-cooked this affair. Nobody let off a bomb. No bomb has been found - we would have been told if it had been. But civil aviation has been thrown into chaos just as if there had been a bomb.

The Government's scan-dalous lack of anything resembling a contingency plan has been displayed to the world - and to every amateur terrorist, too.

BAA and British Airways were - as usual - equally planless. But they are not supposed to be governing the country.

Yet again, there is the unsettling appearance of Britain being kicked around by Americans.

One thing is sure.

Mr Brown will be back next month with plenty to say, in private as well as in public.

And nobody will be able to blame him for anything.

The other great silence has been from Ferrovial, the Spanish motorway company that owns BAA and, by buying it, has accepted responsibility for Britain's biggest airports.

That may not be what anybody had in mind during the takeover. But now it is fact.

There may be nothing much Ferrovial could have done to make things less bad these past few days. Pointedly, though, it has uttered not a word of confidence in BAA's managers, nor promised to involve itself in serious talks about how to improve.

The awkward thing is more security is largely a matter of employing more people. BAA's defence document made great play of the scope for cuts - a prospect that must have encouraged Ferrovial to take on the debt to bid a price BAA shareholders would accept.

If the Spaniards supposed they were buying a steady utility-type income, they were dreadfully wrong. They have taken on one of the most demanding and politically sensitive tasks in the world.